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Drones can be described as an unmanned aircraft that can be controlled using a remote unit or autonomously. Drones have been used significantly recently for several purposes and their usage is expected to grow in the coming years. They come in a variety of sizes and designs with different levels of technology, ability, functionality, and uses. Due to their different designs and structures, drones can be classified or categorized based on their size, flight range, aerial platform, ability, and equipment and autonomy.
In this article, we will be discussing various drone types based on the categories mentioned above, their uses, and how these categories mentioned relating to their functionality and efficiency.
Drones have different sizes and they have different features and uses. You must know what you want to use the drone for before getting the size of the drone that is perfect for you. I will be highlighting the different sizes of drones and their uses in the next paragraph.
They have a size range varying from about 30cm to 50cm long. They are mostly designed as micro or Nano drones. Very small drones are used as an important weapon for spying purposes because of their lightweight and very small structure.
They are also referred to as mini drones. They have a size range above 50cm which is a little bigger than very small drones which are designed as micro or Nano. It is also important to note that small drones do not exceed 2m in size. Small drones have little power due to their small size and they are mostly designed with fixed wings except for few with rotary wings.
This size of drones is heavier than small drones but is smaller and lighter than aircraft. They have an average flight capacity of about 6 to 10 minutes and can carry about 200kg of weight.
These have a size that can be compared to the size of an aircraft. They are essentially used as surveillance devices for military applications. They are used to capture places or locations that cannot be -7accessed or covered with normal aircraft.
How long a drone can fly depends on the drone capabilities such as flight range and endurance. Some drones can only travel as far as 20m while some drones with a longer flight range can cover miles. The flight range of drones differs according to their flight range and flying time.
They have a flying capacity of about 50 kilometers and a flying time of about 1 to 5 hours. Close flight range drones are also used for surveillance missions due to their flight range which allows them to cover a reasonable amount of distance and also their battery capacity.
They can cover a maximum distance of 150 kilometers which is about thrice the distance coverage of short flight range drones. The average flying time of short-range drones is about 8 to 12 hours which makes them useful for spy and reconnaissance purposes. Their superiority over short flight range drones makes them useful for military applications.
They are very powerful and more superior to the previously discussed drones above. They possess high speed and a flight range capacity that can cover a distance of up to 650 kilometers. Due to their power, flight range capacity, and high speed, mid-range flight drones are mostly used for military applications most especially in the area of surveillance. They can also be used for meteorological data collection purposes.
Drones are also designed based on aerial platforms. The functionality and capability of a drone mostly depend on its aerial platform. There are four major types of aerial platform drones.
These types of drones are used by non-professionals and professionals and are the most popular and common. They are commonly used for aerial video surveillance, aerial photography, etc. It is important to note that multi rotor drones have the simplest design, are very easy to manufacture, and also the cheapest amongst drones based on an aerial platform.
Multi rotor drones are also categorized using the number of rotors they have. There are four types which are; 8 rotors (octocopter) 6 rotors (hexacopter) 4 rotors (quadcopter) and 3 rotors (tricopter). Multi rotor drones with 4 rotors are the most common and mostly used.
Multi rotor drones have lots of disadvantages, the most common include its limited flight time, speed, and endurance which makes them not suitable for long-distance surveillance or mapping.
The design and structure of single rotor drones are very similar to that of helicopters. Single rotor drones as their name imply possess just one rotor. Unlike multi-rotor drones, single rotor drones are more efficient. They have longer flying times and higher speed and endurance. But, single rotor drones are very complex, have higher operational risks, and are also expensive.
The design and structure of fixed-wing drones are totally different from that of multi-rotor drones. Fixed-wing drones can’t stand still or stay on air rather, they move by a guide control or remote that is operated by a human. Fixed-wing drones have a flying time capability of up to 16 hours. They are suitable for long distance surveillance and mapping due to their higher efficiency and flying time. However, they are not ideal for aerial photography because they can’t stand still or stay in the air for a particular period.
Some of the disadvantages of fixed win drones include its high cost and the difficulty in flying which needs special training as it requires a catapult launcher or runway to set it on its course in the air.
This type of drones is a combination of fixed wing drones and rotor drones. Hybrid VTOL drones automated or glided manually. They can be controlled automatically by setting them in automated mode to make them stay in the air or control them manually using a remote unit.
Drones have different abilities and are made up of different equipment which makes every drone special in its way and different from the other.
Drone racing is a fast-growing sport that is becoming popular day by day. With racing leagues and events sprouting up all over, the need for racing drones is also increasing drastically. Racing drones are very different from consumer camera drones used for photography and video like the DJI Phantom, have automatic stabilization features and batteries that can last 25 minutes, However, You are unlikely to find these types of features on a racing drone. Most racing drones are designed for hard racing that saps battery life really fast. Racing drones come in various form but they are mostly made of four motors, Electronic Speed Controllers and propellers, video and controller transmitters, and also an on-board camera. Another vital kit that is quite necessary before you start flying is the FPV monitor or goggles. You can get a racing drone for as low as $200. However, this quadcopter will only be suitable for racing at local events. However, if you want a sophisticated and competitive racer, you will need to build it and that can cost up to $800. Some racing drones include DRL RacerX, ImmersionRC Vortex 250 pro, Fat Shark HDO among others.
Drones with GPS are becoming useful and necessary in the modern world. The number of individuals interested in drones equipped with GPS keeps increasing because of its efficiency and suitability for commercial use. It is very essential for aerial photogrammetry, 3D mapping, and multispectral imaging. Some drones with GPS include the DJI Phantom 4, Parrot Anafi FPV, and Mavic 2 Zoom among others.
Camera drones are unmanned aircraft or ship that are guided remotely and also navigated independently. Camera drones have become so prominent. They give the capability to shoot from almost anywhere and angles. A camera drone is made from various composite materials which are light to increase mobility while flying and also reduce the weight of the camera drone. Camera drones have vast areas of application and there are still a lot more that camera drones can do. Some areas of application for camera drones include security, general and wildlife surveillance, and weather forecast.
The First Person View drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle with a camera that wirelessly transmits video feed to goggles or monitors. FPV flying mostly requires two ground station controllers which make it technical. The user has a first-person view (FPV) of the location where the drone flies through the goggles which display what the drone sees in the lenses and may capture video or still images. Some examples of FPV goggles include DJI FPV Goggles and Fat Shark Predator V2 headset. FPV allows you to fly much higher and further beyond the visual range of the pilot. Autel, Husband, Walkera, and some DJI models come with the FPV Flying technology as part of the package.
With the rapid improvement in modern technology, drone industries are improving the level of technology and automation of their drones, they now manufacture drones with unbelievable intelligence that will not only receive information from an operator but drones that can think for themselves, free from any external influence and control. Drones that can carry out a complex assignment, even on dangerous grounds such as inspecting and exploring disaster areas, mining, and other complex tasks you can think of. Autonomy could imply independence and the level of automation of the drone. Although with the rapid improvement in technology, human influence on drone operations has minimized drastically, we cannot neglect the fact that a high level of responsibility is required to fly drones in the national airspace. There are five different levels of autonomy that can be related to the level of automation. They include;
Level 0: No Automation
The drone requires full and absolute control of every movement and action at all times. This implies, there is absolutely no autonomy.
Level 1: Pilot Assistance
Although the operator remains in control, the drone can provide a form of assistance for navigation and/or keep altitude and position. The drone can perform at least one action for a short and specific period. The overall operation and safety of the drone are still in the hands of the pilot.
Level 2: Partial Automation
The operator is in control, but multiple autonomous systems are running simultaneously and the machine can perform a subset of defined task without operator interaction.
Level 3: Conditional Automation
The drone operates autonomously under specific conditions but an operator must pay attention and monitor its progress. The pilot must be prepared to take over control or assist at any time as the drone notifies if intervention is needed.
Level 4: High Automation
The drone is autonomous in most situations; however, the pilot might decide to take over but mostly doesn’t have to. The drone can successfully fly itself in the right situation and circumstances. Backup system is usually put in place to keep the drone functional and operational in the case of system failure. Its action relies on a fixed set of rules that dictates the system behavior.
Level 5: Full Automation
The drone is fully autonomous and accomplishes its entire task under any conditions without operator interaction and is responsible for all safety, critical, and earthmoving functions.
Currently, the level of automation is between Level 3 and Level 4, where the drone can make a couple of decisions without human intervention, but a certain level of human supervision is necessary.
In Conclusion, it is vital to state that every drone is unique in its way either because of its size, flight range, or level of technology and ability. The application of drones has grown widely in various sectors and is showing no sign of slowing down soon so it is important to keep yourself updated. Different drone incidents have been recorded so it is important to have a broad knowledge and a prior idea of what you want, specifications, size, and what you intend using your drone for.